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My Take: It’s time for evangelicals to speak up about guns
December 28th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

My Take: It’s time for evangelicals to speak up about guns

Editor’s note: Daniel Darling is a pastor, author and speaker in the Chicago area. His latest book is "Real: Owning Your Christian Faith." He tweets at @dandarling.

By Daniel Darling, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The Bible doesn’t clearly express an opinion on the possession of guns, but many evangelicals defend the unlimited distribution of firearms with the same fervor that they defend biblical orthodoxy. According to a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey, 8% of white evangelical Protestants favor tighter gun laws.

But in the wake of yet another deadly school shooting, it’s time for evangelicals to contribute to the national discussion beyond: “It’s not guns that kill people, it’s people that kill people.”

In fairness to gun enthusiasts, no reasonable observer could pin the blame for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting solely on the lack of effective gun laws. Even President Barack Obama and other influential voices have called for a balanced approach that looks not only at guns but also at mental illness, violent video games and a culture of fatherlessness that produces young troubled men. And the research about the effectiveness of gun controls laws seems mixed at best.

Still evangelicals should not defend the use, proliferation and availability of assault weapons with as much vigor as they defend their faith. In spite of some who insist the Second Amendment is drawn from the Bible, there is no clear-cut Christian position on gun control.

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On one level, the Bible affirms the government’s first and most basic job to protect its citizens, especially the most vulnerable, our children. Romans 13 reminds us that government is “God’s servant for our good.” The Bible also gives high priority to the welfare of children.

At times, the Bible seems to affirm the right to self-defense. Even when Jesus famously told Peter to put down his sword during Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, he didn’t tell Peter to destroy the sword but put it in its rightful place.

On the other hand, the Scripture is pretty clear that Christians should not only oppose violence but should be advocates for the sanctity of human life. This doesn’t simply apply to abortion but to any unlawful taking of human life. Advocating for life also includes taking care of children's and others' well-being after they are born. Each life is created in the image of God; therefore, death is the work of the evil one (1 John 3:15). The Apostle Paul labels death God’s final enemy. Christians are also called to be “peacemakers” and not lovers of violence.

Given the lack of a straightforward biblical imperative for or against guns, faithful followers of Christ should be more flexible in their opinions on this issue.

Why can’t we support sensible restrictions, such as a ban on military-style combat weapons? These weapons seem to serve no purpose other than the glorification of violence. If we take seriously the command to protect our children, we’ll avoid the risk of these weapons getting into the hands of unstable people. Sure, a ban won’t eliminate all weapons, especially those purchased illegally, but it may reduce the chance of another Sandy Hook massacre.

Massacre of children leaves many asking, 'Where’s God?'

We also should also advocate making it harder for people to acquire guns, even sensible weapons purchased for self-defense or hunting. Gun ownership should be a privilege earned by good behavior and conferred only on the most trustworthy of our citizens. I think we can do this without disrespecting the Second Amendment, which besides guaranteeing the right to bear arms calls for this right to be “well-regulated.” As blogger Marty Duren says, “While the Second Amendment provides the right to keep and bear (“carry”) arms, it does not necessitate the right to own any armament the mind of man can create.”

New gun laws won’t prevent every future crime, but perhaps a few common-sense regulations would help destroy a culture of violence that so tempts young troubled men.

Some will argue that new restrictions only hurt those who are already law-abiding. This may be so. But as Christians called to care for the common good of our communities, we should be willing to endure the inconvenience if it saves one child from death.  Since 9/11, we have all endured more hassle at the airport to prevent even one terrorist from killing our fellow citizens.

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Followers of Christ know that it is ultimately not the gun that kills, but evil that resides in every human heart. And yet it is precisely this belief in total depravity that might inform our views on gun control. In a fallen world, the most vulnerable among us need protection from those who cannot or will not discern right from wrong. (Ironically, this is the focus of the Christian anti-abortion argument.) Let’s not put instruments of death so close to hands that would do evil.

At the end of the day, living out our faith requires that we do more than simply react in a defensive posture but engage in this important debate. We can protect the cherished right to bear arms in self-defense and still make sure unnecessary and violent weapons are not sold on our store shelves and online and are not accessible by those in our communities who would use them to commit acts of aggression and murder.

Furthermore, an unwillingness to entertain common-sense restrictions casts the evangelical faith in an unnecessarily unfavorable light. It may cause some to think we love our guns more than our neighbors.

There are many things about which Christians should be unyielding; the right to own a killing machine should not be one of them.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Daniel Darling.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Guns

soundoff (2,819 Responses)
  1. peace

    No one has the right to take the life of another and that is exactly what the scripture says. If it means that guns should be off the streets so be it.

    January 2, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • the AnViL

      peace:

      "No one has the right to take the life of another and that is exactly what the scripture says."

      unless, of course... the imaginary man in the sky mandates the killing... then it's ok.

      January 2, 2013 at 11:09 am |
  2. Justin from Arkansas

    I hear so many people bringing religion into these discussions, this is why we have separation of church and state PERIOD! I also hear others touching on changing or altering the second amendment, this is the beginning of a slippery slope that will not end with just that amendment, it could be your freedom of speech next. I want to remind all of a quote made by one of our founding fathers. They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -Benjamin Franklin

    January 2, 2013 at 1:26 am |
    • SurelyUjest

      Justin how do you feel about abortion? How do you feel about the pledge of allegience? How do you feel about "in god we trust" written on our money? All of these cross the separation of church and state. You cannot defend this separation on one issue and not on the rest of the issues. I look forward to seeing if you are another gun toting hypocrit from the south or a man of reason.

      January 2, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  3. Felix

    He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied.
    —Gospel of Luke 22:36-38, NIV

    January 1, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
    • Athy

      It is written (in duplicate with carbon copies): It's all bullshit. Truth 45:31.

      January 2, 2013 at 12:49 am |
  4. Bob

    No more 10 commandments, constantly Taking God out of the US, making abortion ok,making us pay for teens having babies, the bailing out the fat cats on w street, doing nothing for the people, How about the violent video games,or taking the parents out of as head of the families.

    January 1, 2013 at 10:48 pm |
    • Bob

      All this and more is not addressed by this supposed man of God what a waste

      January 1, 2013 at 10:50 pm |
    • Athy

      Bob, god should be taken out of our government. You can keep him if you need him, but some of us don't and, frankly, just don't give a shit.

      January 2, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • sam stone

      something being legal and it being "okay" are separate things

      January 2, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      I agree with you sam. I'll remind you of this comment later.

      January 2, 2013 at 10:59 am |
  5. Reggie

    I do not believe that Jesus would argue for guns or against them. I do believe He would talk about our reason for using one. Clearly, there are times we must confront bad people and well trained professionals should be the first line of defense with good civilians, depending upon their local community's desires, armed for home defense or sport. Our cultural is hyped up on violence and we must address this fact. I do not believe we need to add to the level of violence by continuing to add high capacity, advanced weapons to the fray.
    I own a small arm weapon. I consider it a tool. As I believe most people consider their weapons. But I own more bibles than guns and I pray more often than I go to the range. My first line of defense is pray–the Lords pray–which I say everyday before putting on my uniform.
    I am not agruing against the 2nd Adm, but for common sense regulation. In the end, there are people who will always seek to do evil. But the truth is we will never have enough "good guys" with guns in places to stop them. Nor would most be willing to pay for it. My pray is that God continues to send us people like the Newtown educators...e.g Lisa Soto to protect our kids and grant us the wisdom to provide them the support they need to do their job in safety without arming them to the teeth or turning our country into a battlefield with high capacity weapons.

    Tim, thanks for your serve..God bless you and your family.

    January 1, 2013 at 10:25 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      I am a gun owner I own 5 guns, I support the 2nd ammendment. Jesus nor our founding fathers could have imagined ONE man able to kill 20-30 ppl and wound more in a very short time. Military style pistols and rifles are designed for one purpose. To kill our fellow man, while I completely embrace self defence. I can honestly say that while holding my deer rifle or my revolver in my hands I do not require more than 5 rounds to defend myself from 99% of all events that would affect my family. I can honestly say I do not require a high velocity bullet that can smash through wall after wall after wall of my home and richocette in any direction and possibly hurt myself or a family member in the act of defense. I do not require either of these for deer hunting nor target shooting. I do not require a gun with a firing chamber that can be modified easily to make it fully automatic. The NRA and Evangelicals that support the current gun laws are blasphemer's to god's will on this issue. They are supporting the right of someone to KILL over the right of someone to NOT BE KILLED by Guns.

      January 2, 2013 at 10:40 am |
  6. Johny R.

    This fruit loop of a pastor only represents 8% of American Evangelical pastors. Thank God the vast majority think more gun control is a big political lie. But it is fun to hear people that know nothing about the Bible try to say that God is for gun control...

    January 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm |
  7. Tim Stage

    Larry, the guys with the 9mm and shotguns won. Also, nobody but the bad guys died. It's not the weapon, it's the guy wielding it.

    January 1, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
  8. shawny

    first of all the bible DOES NOT SAYS " you have a GODS given right to own a gun" what is said " thou shall not kill"
    I understand hunting guns and I understand a small gun locked tightly in a box at home for protection. I do not believe in rifles that can blow an elephant apart and of course the guns used for kulls. I have seen youth think they are "hot shots" because they carry a semi-automatic" this is not the wild wild west and to be honest against the new testamentt if you get down to the dust of it. The truth is this , the illegal guns out number the people who carry legally. usually it is the owner whos gun is stolen during a robbery and the perp can and will use the gun on those very same people in a break in or house evasion. you want a shoot out ? This is the truth and to go rogue is just bad for folks who do not want to get in the way of the legal and non-legal bullets.

    January 1, 2013 at 8:49 pm |
  9. HRB

    Are you crazy?

    The right to bear arms and shoot people is right up there with Monday Night Football, Mom, Apple Pie and the American Flag and the Stars and Bars. Guns define us as a country for better or for worse.

    January 1, 2013 at 8:42 pm |
    • shawny

      APPLE PIE? YUMMY, HOT DOGS AND HAMBURGERS THE AMAZING voices singing the Star Spangled Banner , wonderful.
      But to shoot each other,lol. Don't think so. Hunting is important in rural areas. It is not sport ,it is food through winter months. If the law says everyone can carry a gun, innocent people can get hurt. And may I say those tiny people who get in the way of bullets ,never get apple pie.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
  10. Dave

    The author brings up good points for us to reconsider. However, I wonder if restrictions should be more regional than national. I grew up in an urban environment and for most of my life have lived in urban settings. In such environments it makes sense to me that type and capacity of guns ought to be limited.

    However, now living in a very rural environment where county law enforcement is 40 minutes away, and we rely on officers from another county, city, or state (hopefully they are available) in an emergency, I advocate sensible firearms possession for the sake of protection of personal protection, livestock, and hunting. We have coyotes picking off house pets from our back yards on occasion, and a good hunting gun is nice to have! What I am trying to say is, I dont think there is a one-size-fits all solution for the entire country.

    However, to the author's point, we as Christians grieve the Lord when we argue for 2nd ammendment rights with the same–or even more rabid–fervor than sharig the good news of Jesus to those around us!

    January 1, 2013 at 6:29 pm |
  11. Bob

    As typical with these blogs it is a backwards way of saying if you are this you will agree with me with the major emphasis on a slanted point of view put forward by owner of this blog. I am Christian I like guns and I like Christians to own,carry, and know about guns. I trust them more than I trust the gov or any law that would restrict the use of guns to allow Christians to protect themselves, me or any other person from attack or harm.

    January 1, 2013 at 5:55 pm |
    • Chris

      I would have replied but Bob said it all

      January 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  12. Oakspar77777

    Mr. Darling, I am an evangelical, and I would like to ask you to stop speaking on our behalf.

    You are correct that the Bible is not clear about guns and at best, you can draw anecdotal connections to swords, spears, or other weapons of the day. Even so, the message is split between "go and sell all you have and buy a sword" and "turning the other cheek."

    Thus, the conclusion that we should not defend guns with our faith is valid. The issues should not overlap.

    Had you walked away there, we could have parted friends.

    You then go on to state that Christians should be willing to walk away from gun rights, the 2nd Amendment, and a free society because we are Christian. Why mix those two issues up again? You can be a Christian in an oppressive (Romanesque) society, as willing slaves (who obey their masters as they obey God), or in any other situation. That does not, however, mean that Christians must or should want to live in such a land.

    Christians can vote and speak for their beliefs, and guns do not conflict with the faith, as you admit.

    So, I will gladly stand against any force that seeks my enslavement or wants power over me, because I support a government of, by, and for the people and the 2nd Amendment is what delievers that power into the hands of the people. That is not required or prohibited me from my faith, and so I pursue it in good conscious.

    To argue that the Christain thing to do is support restricting weapons from the people, it seems to be a misfocus on the world rather than the heart of man.

    January 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm |
  13. An opposing view

    The article is clearly stereotyping a specific religious sect.

    January 1, 2013 at 5:26 pm |
  14. micky

    You forgot an important statement by Jesus when Peter used the sword. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.

    January 1, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
    • shawny

      swords?I am sure those shops will open soon.

      January 1, 2013 at 10:22 pm |
  15. Luis

    The issue is not what a gun ban law does or does not accomplish, it is illegal to commit murder yet that law has never stopped evil doers from such a crime. No ammount of laws or regulations will eliminate violence that grows in the heart of men. Cain murdered his brother Abel with a blunt object and no law would have prevented what was brewing in his heart. In China on the same day of the Sandy Hook massacre, a man stabbed 22 children in a school (guns are banned in China). Should they ban knives then? The second ammendment is not about hunting or target sports shooting, is about the citizens not falling victims of an oppressive government. If the civilians are limited of their weapon capacities or worst banned from their God given right to protect themselves or their neighbor then we leave all the powers to the goverment and run a risk of falling under the leadership of tyrants.

    January 1, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  16. Charlie

    Re so called Assault Weapons, quoting from the article. "Why can’t we support sensible restrictions, such as a ban on military-style combat weapons? These weapons seem to serve no purpose other than the glorification of violence".

    I beg to differ with that opinion. During the 1997 North Hollywood Bank Shootout in California, a time when Assault Weapons were (and still are) illegal in California, two bank robbers armed with illegal assault weapons and illegal 100 round magazines held off 200 policemen armed with only shotguns and handguns for 20 minutes, injuring 17 people before they were taken down. Why do civilians want assault style weapons? The police know the answer only too well. In order to defend yourself against someone with an assault weapon, you need one yourself.

    Until we stop crazy people from committing crimes with guns, law-abiding citizens will want to defend themselves. The problem isn't the guns, it's our society's permissiveness, lack of consequences, and liberal approach allowing people to do pretty much whatever they want (lest we step on their civil rights), until they actually hurt someone (at which point it is too late).

    Charlie

    January 1, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
  17. John

    "The Bible doesn’t clearly express an opinion on the possession of guns"...lol Is it just me? Perhaps jesus was shot instead of crucified...lol

    January 1, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Chris

      Uh, its just you John, everyone else got it. And it wasn't an 'LOL' moment by the way....

      January 1, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
  18. Reggie Baker

    There is a biblical thought about guns...if you live by the sword, you will die by the sword. Peace is not gained by the hand of man, but granted by the grace of God. How about more pray and less bullets.

    And to all that think more guns make you safer, please put on our country's uniform and go into battle as I did. Than lets talk.

    January 1, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Steve

      Did you go into battle unarmed?

      January 1, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      @Steve

      Supposedly Jesus did, and won. Christians want us to accept that Christ died for his cause and there was nothing more noble, but they want to kill for their causes. (Democracy and American Idealism in other parts of the world).

      January 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm |
    • Tim Stage

      Reggie, I too am a christian and I believe that God doesn't want us to go to the arena either. I believe we can keep the guns and work on preventative measures. I am a veteran, former police officer, and corrections officer. Having faced psycho killers and been willing to fight and die for my beliefs I can honestly say I have been more than willing to die and kill for them If I stand before a crowd of people and they wish to kill me (and they did) for my religius beliefs and I give them the choice to move or die is it wrong to have a weapon? I didn't have an AR-15 (I had my service weapon the 92F Berreta). Is it wrong to kill? They moved so I didn't but if they haven't moved I would have. It is about the dieing not the killing. By the way, if they come for Jews or christians and I kill someone with an assault weapon is that wrong? Keep the change I will keep my guns and my religion.

      January 1, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  19. Santi Clause

    It's deja vu, all over again. Early Christians co-opted Saturnalia so that Christianity will be palatable to the pagans. Now, they want to expand Christianity by climbing on the Climate Change ™ and Gun Control bandwagons.

    January 1, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  20. N&W 1000

    One thing gun control advocates need to know is:

    Your gun laws do NOT stop massacres; they enable them; criminals do NOT obey the law in the first place. All you do is disarm innocent people and make them easy targets in a fishbowl.

    January 1, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • Larry

      That is totally wrong!! Gun laws do stop massacres! Not one massacre has been by automatic weapons since they were regulated in 1934 When was the last time an automatic weapon was used in a massacre? Please inform yourself rather than spout nonsense.

      January 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Oakspar77777

      @ Larry – 1997 Hollywood bank robbery shootout

      Now, consider that VA Tech and Arizona were done with handguns (so semi-auto rifles are not the problem).

      Then, consider that Columbine was done during the last ban, and the 9mm carbine Harris used had 13 10 round mags (meaning that he had no problem switching mags 9 or more times over the 96 rounds he shot). Of course, they also used shotguns as well (and a Tec 9 with high cap mags).

      Finally, consider the two largest mass murders in the US (Oklahoma City and 9/11). No guns involved.

      Of the 12,000 or so gun deaths in the US each year, over half are suicides and only about 5% are done with long arms (most are handguns in the centers of urban decay). Of those long arms, half are shotguns. Of the 2.5% of rifles, does it even matter how many are semi-auto rifles with magazines over 10 rounds?

      Banning semi-auto rifles with magazines over 10 rounds is not about saving lives, it is like taxing the 1%. It is about scoring political points on something that has no hope of actually making a difference in the real world.

      January 1, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Scott

      @Larry: North Hollywood shootout comes to mind.

      January 1, 2013 at 7:03 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.